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December 02, 2015

The Circle

The CircleThe Circle

By: Dave Eggers

The Circle, a 2010 novel by Dave Eggers, follows a young graduate by the name of Mae Holland as she begins a new job at the “it” place to work. The Circle, which was started by three mastermind technological, business, and social/cultural entrepreneurs, is an online identity management tool that combines social media, banking, web searching, shopping, etc. into one identity. The Circle is quickly becoming a coveted tool that provides easy access to everything the users need.

Mae is fascinated and delighted by her work at The Circle, and all that life “on the campus” can offer. From apartments, to an aquarium of rare fish, to world-renowned chefs in the staff cafeteria, to evening concerts and parties with some of the world’s best entertainers, life at The Circle is enjoyable for staff, which makes them connected to one another and their jobs. Working in “Customer Engagement”, Mae is connected to The Circle’s users and finds pride and enjoyment in facilitating their easy use of The Circle’s products.

As Mae becomes more known at The Circle, she is brought into an inner circle where she can provide input, ideas, and feedback on products and initiatives, which are designed to increase transparency, accountability, and make the users in The Circle function at a higher level of connectedness. And after an incident with the law, Mae is given the opportunity to model transparency, by wearing an all-day camera that records her life on campus at The Circle, and can be tracked by viewers/users all around the world.

Through Mae’s experiment with the camera, The Circle begins to blur the lines between transparency and accountability, and invasion of privacy. Mae’s family and friends pull away from their relationships with her, eager to be outside that vigilance, while her colleagues at The Circle encourage her to do more to ensure that The Circle will lead the way in making transparency for everyone a common occurrence. With little regard for privacy and boundaries, The Circle works towards fulfilling its final mission which is “Closing the Circle” – or, eliminating any gaps, secrets, and privacy between any and all users around the world.

This book is one that I normally would not have picked up, but was required to read it for a class – and it has quickly become one of the most thought-provoking books I have read in quite some time. The Circle is touted as a tool that makes life easier for users, which may be true; but the issues brought up about The Circle’s ability to invade privacy, and monopoly on the personal information provided by users, are reminiscent of some of the real concerns that technology users have about online privacy today. I am in no way a conspiracy theorist, but reading this book as caused me to put more thought into my digital footprint, as well as explore how the ideas of “connectedness” can have both positive and negative impacts on our lives. This book may scare you – it scared me – but it’s certainly worth a read to look at technology in a new way.

Review By: Jessica Diehl